Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Cubs' offense failed repeatedly to get runners home and the bullpen turned a close game into a blowout (well, as much of a blowout as a 5-2 loss to the Mets can be).
You can stop there, because last night's loss, sending the Cubs to a 6-10 record and giving them their fourth series loss of 2010, was depressingly familiar. The Cubs left 10 men on base, including RISP in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th innings -- even though they managed to score single runs in the last two of those.
Tom Gorzelanny pitched well enough, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning but then being touched for four runs in the sixth. Two of those runs were unearned when Mike Fontenot couldn't handle a ground ball with the bases loaded and two out. In Fontenot's defense, he was screened from the play by Rod Barajas, who was on first after a walk. It wasn't interference or obstruction; Barajas just got in the way of Fontenot's view of the ball.
Justin Berg essentially put the game out of reach by getting nicked for a single run in the bottom of the 8th. That makes the team ERA in the 8th inning 10.69; opponents are hitting .348/.443/.652 in the 8th, and Cubs pitchers have issued 12 walks to the opposition in 80 plate appearances, with a BB/K ratio of 12/9. In all other innings Cubs pitchers have struck out at least twice as many as they have walked.
You may still disagree with the move of Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen -- even though it hasn't officially happened yet and he won't be available to throw until tomorrow -- but it's clear that the team had to do something. Those numbers are awful and although it wouldn't have changed the result of yesterday's game, where the Cubs never had the lead, there are already four games this season where eighth-inning relief failures have cost the Cubs games.
Some competent setup work would, therefore, have the team record at 10-6 instead of 6-10, and that would be fine.
Obviously, it's not just the bullpen failures that are costing the Cubs games; I mentioned the 10 men left on base last night. The Cubs have left 10 or more on base five times already this season. Four of those games are losses (the other is the 9-3 victory over the Mets on Wednesday, when the Cubs had 23 baserunners and scored enough to win even while leaving 14).
I'm not sure what's wrong with Aramis Ramirez but he doesn't look like the hitter he was even in the second half of 2009, when he hit .310/.394/.523 in the second half even while nursing the shoulder injury. If he's still hurt he needs to go on the DL, and Chad Tracy, who has not started a single one of the first 16 games, should start a few. If Tracy isn't deemed capable of starting, why is he even on the team? Bench players need to start every now and then to keep them fresh.
On to Milwaukee. Maybe the Brewers got all their run-scoring for the week out of their system in Pittsburgh.